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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Fact-checking the RNC 2.0

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has issued their assessment of media coverage of the Republican National Convention. Among their findings:

"It is the function of journalism to separate fact from fiction. In covering the Republican National Convention of 2004, the media made isolated efforts to point out some of the convention speakers' more egregious distortions, but on the whole failed in their vital role of letting citizens know when they are being lied to...

Professional politicians and political correspondents alike know that legislators frequently vote against appropriations for a variety of reasons, even though they do not seek to eliminate the programs being voted on. They know that different versions of the same appropriation are often offered, and that lawmakers will sometimes vote for one version and against another-- not because they suffer from multiple personality disorder, but because that's how they express disagreements about how government programs should be funded...

And journalists were complacent as Republicans expressed mock bafflement over why Kerry would vote against [the $87 billion Iraq appropriation bill] when he had voted for another version of the bill (or 'exactly the same thing,' in former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's words-- 8/30/04). The reason that Kerry introduced an alternative bill-- because he wanted to pay for the appropriation by raising taxes on the wealthy rather than through deficit spending-- was well-publicized at the time (Washington Post, 9/18/03). Yet rather than challenging the dishonesty of this centerpiece of the Republican attack on Kerry, CNN's Jeff Greenfield after Bush's speech (9/2/04) called it 'one of the most familiar and effective lines of his stump speech.'

Bush himself threatened to veto the Iraq spending bill if the reconstruction aid for Iraq it included was in the form of loans rather than grants; by the logic of the Republican convention, Bush 'flip-flopped' exactly the same way that Kerry did on the $87 billion by supporting one version of the bill and opposing another. Yet a Nexis search of television coverage of the convention turns up only one reference to Bush's veto of the bill, by Paul Begala on CNN ( 9/1/04). Overwhelmingly, TV pundits covering the convention allowed the charade surrounding the $87 billion to pass without critical comment."

To read about more distortions in the RNC, go to the FAIR website or read Fact-checking the Republican National Convention.


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